Upgrading your military discharge rate

Upgrading your military discharge rate

by: Kim Suchek
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published: February 04, 2013
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Hello Military Community,

Last week I went over the Types of Military Discharges. Now we’ll look at how To upgrade your military discharge. Contrary to what many may think, it is not set in stone.

Your military discharge rating is very important for many reasons, including eligibility for VA benefits, government employment, re-enlistment and more. If you received a discharge that is other than “Honorable,” you may request a military discharge upgrade. To do so, you must submit the proper DD Form to the appropriate Discharge Review Board (DRB). But the DRB will not upgrade just any discharge upon request. You need to convince the board that your discharge was improper or inequitable. Approvals are rare.

Improper or Inequitable Discharge:
An improper military discharge is one that was made in error, or one that violated laws or military regulations. This could be an administrative snafu or a miss-classification. An inequitable military discharge is one that is inconsistent with military traditions or policies. There are many circumstances which could qualify for these two classifications, and it is recommended that you seek legal counsel to determine how to challenge your discharge rating.

Also note that there is no such thing as an automatic upgrade to honorable, even if the circumstances of certain discharges were later deemed to be in error. Each discharged person must apply for their own upgrade.

Military Discharge Review Board:
Each branch has a Discharge Review Board which reviews discharge upgrade requests (the Navy runs the DRB for the Marines). These DRB consists of five-member boards consist of active duty officers and senior enlisted personnel. They can review any discharge except a discharge or dismissal sentenced by a general court martial. Learn more about laws governing DRBs by Googling “Title 10, United States Code, Section 1553.”

When you fill out your DD Form 293 (discharge upgrade request form) you will have the option to present your case at the DRB in Washington D.C., in front of a traveling DRB, or have a records review board without presenting your case in person. If you have the means, it is usually best to you have legal representation present your case in person.

Time Limitations on Upgrade Requests
Veterans MUST request an upgrade within 15 years of separating from active duty. Otherwise, they must request a change to their military records, which is an ENTIRELY different process.

How to Request an Upgrade:
To request a discharge upgrade, download DD FORM 293 and follow these steps:

  1. Section 1: Personal information (Complete section 2 if you are filing this on behalf of a veteran.)
  2. Section 3: Your desired result
  3. Section 4: How you want your records reviewed – in person before a DRB in Washington, a traveling board or have submitted records reviewed in your absence.
  4. Section: 5: Fill this out if someone else will represent you (lawyer, or veterans group, etc.)
  5. Section 6: Fill this out if you opt to forgo legal representation
  6. Section 7: Supporting documentation
  7. Section 8: Why the board should consider your request
  8. Section 9: Signature and date

You can mail the completed DD FORM 293 and supporting documentation to:

ARMY: Army Discharge Review Board Agency ADRB, 1902 South Bell Street, Arlington VA 22202-4508

NAVY & MARINE CORPS: Secretary of the Navy, Council of Review Boards, ATTN: Naval Discharge Review Board, 720 Kennon Ave S.E., Suite 309, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374-5023

AIRFORCE: Air Force Review Board Agency, SAF/MIBR, 550-C  Street West, Suite 40, Randolph AFB, Texas 78150-4742

COAST GUARD: Commandant (CG-122), ATTN: Office of Military Personnel, U.S. Coast Guard, 2100 2nd Street S.W., Stop 7801, Washington, D.C. 20593-7801

Be sure to include supporting documentation, which can include things such as your DD214, military records, and statements from former supervisors, first sergeants, commanders, and other veterans, witnesses you served with and/or were present.

Your personal statement and statements from those who served with you are invaluable. The board is ONLY concerned with your conduct while you were in the service, not your conduct before or after your service. So limit statements to the time period in question.

I recommend seek legal counsel to act on your behalf. This can be costly so check into the pro bono legal services that are out there for military families. Just make sure that you use a lawyer familiar with the military AND with experience arguing these cases in front of a Records Review Board – of the service branch from which the upgrade is being sought (or one who is at least experienced working with military cases).

For more information, you can also seek counsel or advice from a veterans organization such as your local VFW, American Legion, etc. Expect the application, review process and decision to take several months from start to finish.

Blessings from my family to yours,
Kim Suchek

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